Interview: Kojin Ono, Dai Ono & Hideki Shimanuki

Translated & Interpreted by Jeremy Barlow © Soundwave's Oblivion 2021

Interview from Figure King 285 (October 2021)

Masterpiece G MPG-01
Trainbot Shouki
Scheduled Release Late June 2022 / 19,800 Yen

The Transformers top brand, Masterpiece, now includes a new sub-line “MPG”, otherwise known as “Masterpiece G”. The added “G” stands for “Gattai”, “Giant” and “Great!”. The first release is the Trainbot Leader, Light Speed Commander Shouki, whose origins lie in Diaclone and was also included in the 1987 Japanese exclusive series Transformers: The Headmasters.
The vehicle mode is based on the Super Express 0 Series Shinkansen (Bullet Train). With the permission of the JR Group and the help of Tomytec who manage the TOMIX brand within the Takara Tomy Group, the train mode has been scaled to fit with the international model railway HO gauge size. The fully articulated robot is a gem of a masterpiece designed with the latest toy technologies.
All 6 Trainbots will be released under the fitting MPG name as they will combine into the Heavy Union Warrior Raiden. We hope you will assemble the first Masterpiece combiner!!


Takara Tomy x Tomytec Shouki Developer Interview
Kojin Ono ● Takara Tomy / Transformers Team
Dai Ono ● Tomytec / Development
Hideki Shimanuki ● Tomytec / Marketing

Ono ● It was at our meeting when a young staffer name dropped “Raiden”. This idea was put on hiatus due to a multitude of issues, above all we had to be able to combine 6 robots. However if this could be realised we would have our first train Transformers after a long time as well as our first Masterpiece combiner. Additionally if we were able to attract model railway enthusiasts we would be able to tap into a new fanbase….and after a lot of deliberation we all thought “Let’s do it!”. The licensing team and myself got a hold of the old G1 toys and approached Japan Railways to see how we could do this and that’s how we got permission.

-How did the collaboration with TOMIX come about?
Ono ● As we are part of the same organisation we initially began consulting with each other, but if we worked together to include supervision and marketing, we thought, wouldn’t we both benefit? When I spoke with the team again I was told there was a guy in the TOMIX team who used to play with Transformers when they were younger. That was very promising (laughs).
Dai Ono ● Back then, Raiden was bought for my younger brother and since I was a train fan we were always playing with them (laughs).

-What were your initial thoughts about a train turning into a robot?
Shimanuki ● This year TOMIX is currently celebrating it’s 45th anniversary so we are very close with vehicles such as the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) and Blue Trains (Long Distance Trains). When I heard that they could transform as well, I was excited about what this could bring to our company.

-It appears it is being produced to the HO gauge standard.
Dai Ono ● This is the scale used for model railways overseas, and as the Shinkansen trains use a standard track gauge we chose to use the HO gauge size.
Ono ● When I originally designed the Diaclone Train Robos, I aimed at a size close to the N gauge. As this is an MPG product we are aiming as much as we can at a realistic train which was not possible to do back then. I’m sure railroad fans will approve of the HO gauge size. This is why I was very particular about the scale from the beginning. It was only later I had to alter the robot's height to scale with the other Masterpiece’s (laughs).
Shimanuki ● Even TOMIX haven't released a 0 Series at the HO gauge scale yet (laughs).

-What was the point of TOMIX’s supervision?
Shimanuki ● We were there to ensure the end product fit the look of a model railroad. As we are a model railroad company and this is a model railroad, we wanted to make sure this matched the real thing.
Dai Ono ● We have a say on the overall shape of the train but that's about it. I’m often amazed that a robot fits inside.
Shimanuki ● We talked amongst ourselves that it would be great for TOMIX fans to see another product and say “that’s something that TOMIX supervised”.

-How did this partnership actually work in practise?
Ono ● TOMIX stores a lot of product development materials, particularly photographs which have never been seen outside of the company. When I was supervising I was able to make use of these materials to check for errors with our designs.
Shimanuki ● When asked, we would thoroughly examine the colour chips and faithfully match them to the real colours. The colours of the train's body have been reproduced in a way that they are comparable with TOMIX products.

-Did you have to make any corrections?
Ono ● It was really only the sizes of the windows and the number of rivets in the paneling.
Dai Ono ● I had to think about how we should approach the windows (laughs). The sizes of the windows for the original trains built in 1964 were different from those manufactured in 1975. For this project I chose to use the larger windows (from when the train was first manufactured).
Ono ● Ono-san also pointed out the differences between the Shinkansen couplers and those of the conventional trains. However as we have 6 trains to link, all the couplers are going to be the same for the 6 Transformers (laughs).

-From your perspective, what is the appeal of this product?
Ono ● For me it’s the HO gauge size recreating a realistic 0 Series Shinkansen and the fact that even in robot mode you can tell it’s a 0 Series. I was very particular that he looked cool, after all Shouki is good looking. I also wanted him to have great articulation, I hope you enjoy it. I also thought that it was a must have to come packaged with a rail section.
Dai Ono ● The fact you can display this on a rail track is simply amazing. It's actually really hard to make a model train in this scale. We are very particular over the wheel arrangements and train antennae when we make model railroads. We hope this is something you can appreciate with this product.
Shimanuki ● The sculpt of the coupler is very well done. Usually with TOMIX the couplers are not sculpted as we recreate them to be covered.
Ono ● It has only been possible to make such a product with TOMIX as we are both part of the Takara Tomy Group.
Translated Tech Specs
The Transformers
Other Interviews:-

- Kojin Ono

- Takashi Kunihiro

- Yuya Onishi

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